Assemblage of indigenous arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and green waste compost enhance drought stress tolerance in carob (Ceratonia siliqua L.) trees.Sci Rep. 2021 11 24; 11(1):22835.SR
In the current study, an eco-friendly management technology to improve young carob (Ceratonia siliqua L.) tree tolerance to water deficit was set up by using single or combined treatments of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and/or compost (C). Two groups of young carob have been installed: (i) carob cultivated under well-watered conditions (WW; 70% field capacity (FC)) and (ii) where the plants were drought-stressed (DS; 35% FC) during 2, 4, 6, and 8 months. The effect of used biofertilizers on the course of growth, physiological (photosynthetic traits, water status, osmolytes, and mineral content), and biochemical (hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), oxidative damage to lipids (malondialdehyde (MDA), and membrane stability (MS)) traits in response to short- and long-term droughts were assessed. The dual application of AMF and C (C + AMF) boosted growth, physiological and biochemical parameters, and nutrient uptake in carob under WW and DS. After eight months, C + AMF significantly enhanced stomatal conductance by 20%, maximum photochemical efficiency of PSII by 7%, leaf water potential by 23%, chlorophyll and carotenoid by 40%, plant uptake of mineral nutrients (P by 75%, N by 46%, K+ by 35%, and Ca2+ by 40%), concentrations of soluble sugar by 40%, and protein content by 44% than controls under DS conditions. Notably, C + AMF reduced the accumulation of H2O2 and MDA content to a greater degree and increased MS. In contrast, enzyme activities (superoxide dismutase, catalase, peroxidase, and polyphenoloxidase) significantly increased in C + AMF plants under DS. Overall, our findings suggest that the pairing of C + AMF can mediate superior drought tolerance in young carob trees by increasing leaf stomatal conductance, cellular water content, higher solute concentration, and defense response against oxidative damage during the prolonged period of DS.